Archive for December, 2008

Republican Intellectual Socialsm

December 26, 2008

A couple of weeks ago, I had one of those dangerous driving moments as I listened to Dennis Prager talk about gifted children. First, I heard him ask if children with As were any happier than children making Cs and Ds. His point was that they aren’t, so why put kids in gifted programs. To further that point, he claimed that the reason parents put their kids in gifted programs was so that the kids could make more money as adults. Nevermind that I have a child in a gifted program and that money has nothing to do with it (for me and the other parents in that class, as we have talked about it to a great extent). The point of such program is the opportunity and the capacity to learn. As my son said while in his regular class, “What’s two plus two? Too boring . . . that’s what my class is.”

Prager’s comments, however, capture the problem with too many pundits, conservatives in particular. First, their problem is a complete lack of knowledge on topics that they spew opinions about. More significantly, they desire a kind of intellectual socialism that reduces everyone to their know-nothing levels.

It was one thing to be anti-East Coast intellectualism as they were at one time, even though many of post-WWII leaders and pundits were from the East Coast. At least, I understand the point of opposing a certain school of thought that one might call “East Coast intellectualism.” But today’s conservative pundits go beyond that, demeaning any type of intellectualism, even college education itself.

Sarah Palin’s hero status among these conservatives epitomizes this resistance to knowledge as the basis for policy. Mark Davis, Dallas radio host and newspaper columnist, touted McCain’s selection of Palin as the greatest political moment of 2008. Yet, other than being ‘mavericky’ Palin has no knowledge to distinguish her as a politician. Like Prager, she throws out opinions based on no real knowledge of the topic. There’s a progression with recent Republican White House candidates. Reagan hardly had a sharp mind for detailed knowledge; instead, his appeal was mostly an emotional one (patriotism and strength) with a general policy of ‘less government’ and an economic theory he really didn’t understand in detail. (See David Stockman’s Triumph of Politics.) George W. Bush demonstrated even less detailed knowledge, although he had an MBA. In Palin, we saw such a descent into ignorance that it was uncomfortable even for Democrats and liberals.

That’s not to say conservatives are ignorant. I know too many that are engineers and very intelligent people. But the conservative leaders and, in particular, the pundits have such a disdain for intellectualism that they seem to pursue arguments, like Prager’s, that equalizes intelligence. As appealing as it is think that anyone can be president, or vice-president, that’s not really true. Excluding experience from the discussion, Palin’s body of knowledge was too puny to qualify her for VP. I want someone smarter than me in the White House, even though I’m no idiot, and neither are most Americans. The advocacy of Palin as a vice presidential candidate was not a hallmark of independent, maverick politics. It was the advocacy of incompetence, of marginal understanding of national issues, and of equalizing intelligence, the kind of socialist endeavor that conservatives froth at in any economic areas. At one point, McCain cited Palin’s PTA experience as one of her qualifications, which is one of the most ridiculous statements of the campaign.

But this is the path that conservative leaders are taking Republicans down. I know many conservatives, and most are not opposed to intelligence, and they recognize that there are different types, with not all being equal. Some admitted to being uncomfortable with Palin on the ticket, but I think they saw this elevation of ignorance as dangerous to the party, especially those conservatives who view themselves more as economic conservatives rather than religious or social conservatives.

With candidates such as Palin, it’s little wonder that Prager dismisses gifted and advanced education.